Editor’s Notes: Go-go dancer story example of good journalism (opinion)
December 30, 2017
It's been a little more than two weeks since we published a news story on the dancers at the Tahoe Adventure Film Festival.
The debate that initially spurred that article has only intensified since then, with input coming in from all sides of the issue. Multiple people have written letters to the editor in support of the dancers and the film festival's founder, Todd Offenbacher, a longstanding member of the community who is respected and loved by many.
I have, for the most part, enjoyed reading these letters and the points they argue. I also enjoyed talking with Todd recently and hearing his thoughts.
However, there are a couple of points I would like to address.
The topic, as has been pointed out, was brought to our attention by Lara Miller. A discussion on social media was already beginning to take shape. This is an important fact, as some people have asked: Why was this newsworthy? It was newsworthy because there was already a growing discussion unfolding online.
Our news editor talked with Lara and from there started reporting — talking with numerous sources and collecting multiple points of views.
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Some of the people who have commented on the story have stated that our reporting was part of a smear campaign by Lara. (See her response here.)
The morning the story was published, somebody brought a Facebook comment to our attention. The comment appears to show that Lara, on a personal level, does not like Todd — not one bit. Had we known about this, we would have addressed it in our reporting and simply asked Lara about her feelings toward Todd.
That would have been added context, and context is always important. But would it have changed the story? No.
It wouldn't have changed the story because the story was not about how one particular person feels about the use of dancers at a film festival.
Is it possible that there was an agenda behind bringing this to our attention? Absolutely. Most people don't contact journalists without having some sort of agenda. That is why we talk to as many people as we can.
As I said, this story included multiple perspectives from many different people (eight people, to be exact). In the course of reporting, the author even tried to talk with more people than the ones quoted in the story.
This was not flimsy reporting. This was not clickbait that was quickly constructed and irresponsibly thrown out into the world. This was good journalism.
I would encourage everyone, regardless of where you come down on the issue, to go back and really read the story — the whole story. You can do so here.
In fairness, I can understand the outrage people have expressed in their defense of Todd. I can understand that because I have similar feelings when some of those same people have questioned the motives and talents of Claire Cudahy, who reported and wrote the story.
In one of our editorial meetings months ago, I reminded Claire and the other members of the team that I have their backs.
As I recall, I said something along the lines of: "We will make mistakes. And when we do will own up to it. But know that I have your backs."
I don't think I have ever worked with another journalist who has made that task as easy as Claire (disclosure: Claire does not know I'm writing this). She is a gifted writer, talented journalist and a genuinely good person. While she is not a long-time Tahoe local (another disclosure: neither am I), her work has made an impact in this community time after time.
Criticism comes with being a journalist. Each day our work is exposed to thousands of people who will naturally respond and react from a unique position and point of view.
Sometimes that criticism goes beyond the work to the author. When that happens it is, more so than not, misguided and misinformed.
In this specific instance, it is both.
Ryan Hoffman is editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune. He can be reached at 530-542-8006 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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